Sweet scenario in Seattle
Carey among ownership with clout in expansion team
Posted: Wednesday March 5, 2008 10:54AM; Updated: Wednesday March 5, 2008 11:49AM
So, honestly, how can a Seattle MLS franchise possibly fail?
There's a ridiculously rich, powerful and passionate ownership group, a modern downtown stadium designed to showcase the sport and a fabulous lease deal that virtually guarantees success, decades of soccer tradition in the city, and a tsunami of season tickets sold since the official announcement in mid-November.
On the day of that announcement, investor/comedian/entertainer/producer/photographer Drew Carey came to the George & Dragon Pub to talk soccer and unveil his plan to sell shares in the team by which fans become members with voting power and could, if they wanted, vote out the general manager. The feel-good factor soared off the charts as fans cheered, video cameras rolled, and in the corner, de facto general manager and co-investor Adrian Hanauer laughed at pointed remarks from those nearby.
More than a year before its competitive launch in the spring of 2009, MLS Seattle is way ahead of the curve. It sounds perfect, and of course, it isn't. But it can't be that far away.
"I'm pretty conservative," says Hanauer, whose family is part of the ownership group along with entertainment mogul Joe Roth; Vulcan Sports and Entertainment (VSE), owner of the NFL Seattle Seahawks; and Carey. "I hope for the best but expect the worst. Nothing's easy and nothing's a guarantee, but at some point the risk-reward equation becomes good enough where you're willing to give it a shot, not to mention the fact that it's something you're absolutely passionate about and want to be spending your long days doing."
Vulcan was formed by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, which bought a company -- aQuantive -- partially owned by Hanaeur's family last August for nearly $6 billion. Also involved is Tod Leiweke, brother of AEG president Tim Leiweke. Tod Leiweke is CEO of First & Goal, Inc., the company that manages Qwest Field.
No coaches or players have been signed, yet that's a solid lineup.
Hanauer grew up playing the game in the Seattle area and religiously trekked to watch the NASL Sounders, who regularly attracted crowds in the high teens and occasionally sold out Memorial Stadium, then consistently topped crowds of 20,000 in the massive Kingdome. Yet he hadn't needed a whiff of the pro game to spark his interest.
"My mom tells stories about me being 2½ years old out in the backyard with a soccer ball, barely able to walk and kick it along," says Hanauer, who eventually would blossom into a "crafty, slow midfielder" and still plays at every opportunity. "The original Sounders were a really important part of my childhood. I went to all those games at Memorial Stadium, and went to the parties after the game and got the autographs, and went to the camps and got to see the players.
"The buzz that existed in the city and going to the games with my family, that really got me. Then it sort of went dormant. I kept playing, but I went to college and got on with my adult life."
Pro soccer went dormant, too. The Sounders folded after the '83 season -- a year after losing the Soccer Bowl to the Cosmos, 1-0. The entire league followed suit after the '84 season and while amateur and semipro leagues tried to fill the void, indoor pro soccer held sway throughout the decade.